Probability and sports
Abstract
This lesson is devoted to Internet research on a specific topic: finding topics
in sports where probability is relevant. The goal of the lesson is to introduce
some statistics and probability concepts by looking at practical questions that
arise in professional sports.
Objectives
Upon completion of this lesson, students will:
 have seen that knowledge of probability concepts is useful when looking at sports
 have learned to search for a specific topic on the internet
Standards
The activities and discussions in this lesson address the following
NCTM standards:
Data Analysis and Probability
Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them
 formulate questions, design studies, and collect data about a characteristic shared by two populations or different characteristics within one population
Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data
 use observations about differences between two or more samples to make conjectures about the populations from which the samples were taken
Understand and apply basic concepts of probability
 understand and use appropriate terminology to describe complementary and mutually exclusive events
 use proportionality and a basic understanding of probability to make and test conjectures about the results of experiments and simulations
 compute probabilities for simple compound events, using such methods as organized lists, tree diagrams, and area models
Links to other standards.
Student Prerequisites
 Arithmetic: Students must be able to:
 relate the sports information they collect to mathematical expression
 use simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division when working with the sports
information they collect
 Technological: Students must be able to:
 perform basic mouse manipulations such as point,
click and drag
 use a browser such as Netscape for experimenting with
the activities
Teacher Preparation
Students will need:
 Access to a browser
 Pencil and Paper
Key Terms
This lesson introduces students to the following terms through the included discussions:
Lesson Outline
 Focus and Review
Remind students of what they learned in previous lessons that will be pertinent to this lesson and/or
have them begin to think about the words and ideas of this lesson:
 How many of you like to play sports?
 When you are getting ready to play a game, are there some teams that you
know your team can beat easier than others?
 Objectives
Let the students know what they will be doing and learning today. Say something like
this:
 Today, class, we are going to learn how probability applies to sports.
 We are going to use the computers to learn about applying probability to sports,
but please do not turn your computers on until I ask you to. I want to show you a little about
this activity first.
 Teacher Input
 review some basic probability facts and explain to the students what they will be doing.
 Guided Practice
 Have each person or group decide which sport they would like to research and monitor them as
they begin their searches.
 You can suggest people search for probability information in the web sites related to the
following sports:
 Independent Practice
 Have students search one of the four sports
provided (or find information about a different sport, if desired) to find
connections between the sport and probability. Each student or group of students
can find and then share a piece of information about chances to win against a
particular player or team, chances to make a "hole in one" in golf, chances of
making a basket in basketball, or anything else connected with probability
that they may find on these sports pages.
 Search for answers to specific questions. Each student or group of students can come up with
specific questions concerning sports, and try to find answers using Internet resources. These sample questions about golf can be used as examples.
 Sports challenge: "Do you believe it?" Students or groups of students find piece of probability
information on sports, and then challenge another group to confirm or refute their data.
Students do not necessarily give the correct answer, making the activity more
interesting. For example, having found that the record drive for a long drive in
a golf contest is 448 yards, the students may challenge another group: "Is it
true that the record drive is above 470 yards?" Students can give hints, for
example, the address of the website where they have found the information.
 Closure
 You may wish to bring the class back together for a discussion of the findings.
Once the students have been allowed to share what they found, summarize the results of
the lesson.
Alternate Outlines
This lesson can be rearranged in several ways.
Suggested FollowUp
After this lesson, the students will have seen practical applications of how probability is used in
everyday situations such as sports. The next lesson, Ideas That Lead to
Probability, introduces ideas that are the basis of probability theory. By using everyday
experiences and intuitive understanding, this lesson gives students a gradual introduction to
probability. Students will work with random number generators learn what it means for a game to
be fair.
